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Chest. 2010 Jan;137(1):53-9. doi: 10.1378/chest.08-0529. Epub 2009 Jun 12.

Cost and outcomes of patients with solitary pulmonary nodules managed with PET scans.

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Health Economics Resource Center, 795 Willow Rd (152), Menlo Park, CA 94025, USA.



No prior study to our knowledge has observed the cost of managing solitary pulmonary nodules of patient groups defined by PET scan results.


We combined study and administrative data over 2 years of follow-up.


Of 375 individuals with a definitive diagnosis, 54.4% had a malignant nodule and 62.1% had positive PET scan results. Mortality risk was 5.0 times higher (CI, 3.1-8.2) and cost was greater (50,233 dollars vs 22,461 dollars, P<.0001) among patients with malignant nodule. Mortality risk was 4.1 times higher (CI, 2.4-7.0) and cost was greater (47,823 dollars vs 20,744 dollars, P<.0001) among patients with a positive PET scan result. Among patients with a malignant nodule, 4.9% had a false-negative PET scan, but cost and survival were not different from true positives. Among patients with a benign nodule, 22.8% had a false-positive PET scan. These patients had greater cost (33,783 dollars vs 19,115 dollars, P<.01), more surgeries and biopsies, and 3.8 times the mortality risk (CI, 1.6-9.2) of true negatives. Just over one-half (54.5%) of individuals with positive PET scans received surgery. Most individuals with negative PET scans (85.2%) were managed by watchful waiting. They incurred fewer costs than patients with negative PET scans who were managed more aggressively (19,378 dollars vs 28,611 dollars, P<.01).


Management of solitary pulmonary nodules is expensive, especially if the nodule is malignant or if the PET scan result is false positive. Among patients with malignant nodules, 2-year survival is poor. Compared with true-positive PET scan results, false-negative results are not associated with lower costs or better outcomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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